Emotion regulation and mental habit in mindful eating

Fisher, Naomi R., et al. “Dispositional mindfulness and reward motivated eating: The role of emotion regulation and mental habit.” Appetite, published online 21 Jul 2017.

From the Abstract.  Evidence regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) for eating disorders, weight management and food craving is emerging and further studies are required to understand the underlying mechanisms of MBIs in these domains.

The current study was designed to establish the role of specific mechanisms underlying the putative relationship between mindfulness and reward motivated eating. We predicted that mindfulness would be negatively related to features of reward motivated eating and that this association would be mediated by emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking.

A cross-sectional survey measuring uncontrolled and emotional eating, mindfulness, emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking was completed by female and male meditators and non-meditators (N = 632). Lower levels of dispositional mindfulness were associated with difficulties in emotion regulation, habitual negative self-thinking and both emotional and uncontrolled eating.

Difficulties in emotion regulation significantly mediated the mindfulness-uncontrolled eating relationship. Habitual negative self-thinking significantly mediated the mindfulness-emotional eating relationship. Participants with meditation experience reported greater levels of dispositional mindfulness, fewer difficulties with emotion regulation and habitual negative self-thinking and reduced uncontrolled eating tendencies, compared to non-meditators.

The findings suggest that MBIs designed to change reward motivated eating and weight control should focus on emotion regulation and mental habits as underlying mechanisms.

The neurobiology of mindfulness (review)

Zeidan, F. (2014). The Neurobiology of Mindfulness Meditation. In The Handbook of Mindfulness. New York: Guilford Press. In press. Full text.

From the Introduction. For thousands of years, contemplatives have reported that enhancements in sensory awareness, cognition, and health can be accomplished through meditation practice. Before the development and utilization of neuroimaging and other scientific methodologies, the scientific world cast these descriptions as reflections of a relaxation response at best, and report biases associated with practitioner zeal at worst.

The recent surge in number of mindfulness-based studies has supported the claim that mindfulness meditation can improve a range of mental and physical health outcomes, and neuroimaging studies are beginning to identify the brain mechanisms that mediate the relationships between mindfulness meditation and such outcomes.

Although the neuroscientific investigation of mindfulness meditation is in its infancy, the premise of this chapter is that mindfulness meditation engages a unique, distributed network of brain regions. This chapter builds on previous neuroscientific work by offering a complementary perspective that focuses on a temporal account of the neurobiology of mindfulness, which considers the neurobiological basis of how mindfulness engages the brain over time. I first provide a brief overview describing some key neuroimaging methodologies used in research.

In the sections to follow, I provide a descriptive account of the neurobiological correlates of dispositional mindfulness, brief meditation training (1 week or less), the mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) program (approximately 8 weeks), and finally expert meditators (more than 1,000 hours of practice).

The subsequent section, concerning mindfulness and the default mode network, briefly describes how different levels of mindfulness-related experience affect task- independent neural processing. I then provide a longitudinal perspective of the brain structural correlates associated with different levels of mindfulness. Finally, I discuss considerations for future mindfulnessbased and other contemplative practice research.

Mindfulness and disgust in colorectal cancer scenarios

Reynolds, L. M., Consedine, N. S., & McCambridge, S. A. (2014). Mindfulness and disgust in colorectal cancer scenarios: Non-judging and non-reacting components predict avoidance when it makes sense. Mindfulness, 1-11.

From the Abstract. Mindfulness facilitates greater tolerance of unpleasant emotion and may thus promote better decision making in health settings where emotional avoidance is common. Disgust’s elicitors are common in colorectal cancer (CRC) contexts and, because disgust evolved to minimise contamination risk through avoidance and withdrawal, decision making when disgusted is important.

The current report investigated whether specific components of dispositional mindfulness predict elicited disgust and avoidance behaviours in scenarios based around CRC screening and treatment. After completing trait mindfulness measures, 80 healthy volunteers were block randomised (by gender) to disgust or control conditions before completing tasks assessing immediate avoidance of a disgust elicitor (stoma bag) and anticipated avoidance of a hypothetical CRC drug with disgusting side effects.

In total, these findings suggest persons with low mindfulness may fail to attend to emotional experience when making decisions while those higher in non-react and non-judge components may use their disgust to inform both current and future behaviour. Mindfulness training may promote more integrated decision-making skills in CRC contexts where disgust is a factor.

Association between acting with awareness and better sleep in cancer patients

Garland, S. N., Campbell, T., Samuels, C., & Carlson, L. E. (2013). Dispositional mindfulness, insomnia, sleep quality and dysfunctional sleep beliefs in post-treatment cancer patients. Personality and Individual Differences. In press.

Abstract. Dispositional mindfulness, or the tendency to be more mindful in daily life, has been associated with better psychological functioning and reduced overall distress. This study investigated the degree to which dispositional mindfulness was associated with sleep disturbances in cancer patients with insomnia. Further, we examined whether levels of mindfulness moderated the relationship between stress levels, mood disturbance, insomnia severity, sleep quality and dysfunctional sleep beliefs.

Participants (N = 111) were adults who had been previously treated for cancer and currently met diagnostic criteria for insomnia. Higher levels of acting with awareness, non-judging and non-reacting were associated with better sleep and psychological outcomes.

Despite these significant associations, mindfulness facets did not significantly moderate the relationship between stress, mood and sleep outcomes. This negative finding raises the possibility that increased mindfulness may not act directly to improve psychological outcomes, but rather through a series of other cognitive and affective changes. Our results emphasize the importance of addressing mood symptoms and stress appraisals as predictors of sleep disturbance in cancer patients.